Can Robots Trust Humans? Catching Up With hitchBOT

MPC News_Can Robots Trust Humans_hitchBOT

Can robots trust humans? According to hitchBOT, they can. In just 26 days, ProCom’s now world famous hitchhiking robot caught 19 rides from Canadians (total strangers), making it all the way from Halifax, NS, to Victoria, BC.

By Ian Barcarse, MPC 2015

Can robots trust humans? According to hitchBOT, they can. In fact, robots can also bring people together. As the first robot to hitchhike throughout Canada, hitchBOT has relied solely on the help of humans to travel across the country this past summer.

For its 10,000-kilometre journey, a research project orchestrated by Dr. Frauke Zeller from the School of Professional Communication, hitchBOT was developed to explore how humans would respond when the role of technology is reversed. With the help of MPC alumni, Jacky Au Duong and Alanna Mager, hitchBOT went off without a hitch.

In just 26 days, hitchBOT caught 19 rides from Canadians (total strangers) to travel from Halifax, NS, to Victoria, BC. During its adventure, hitchBOT managed to crash a mountain-top wedding, participate in a tea party, meet celebrities, and visit six First Nations communities. Online, the world was watching with over 35,000 Twitter followers, 12,000 Instagram fans, and nearly 50,000 Facebook likes.


Credit: Seb and Kim |
Credit: Seb and Kim |

Aside from hitchBOT’s growing fan base on social media, it has also caught the attention of media channels worldwide. From tech blogs like Mashable and TechVibes, to national outlets like CBC and The Canadian Press, hitchBOT’s journey was a sensation to follow. Internationally, hitchBOT was also headlining in countries including the United States, China, Japan, Brazil, and Germany.

After its long journey, hitchBOT is now back in Port Credit, ON. Since its return, hitchBOT has made an appearance at FCAD’s Fall Convocation, Ontario Science Centre’s Robots Rule! event, and the Toronto Mini Maker Faire at the Toronto Reference Library. To celebrate the holiday season, hitchBOT also hitched a ride on a float during the Etobicoke Lakeshore Santa Claus Parade.

Through it all, hitchBOT has stayed energized while keeping a smile on its face. Thanks to Dr. Zeller and MPC alumni Jacky Au Duong and Alanna Mager, hitchBOT has become a modern Canadian icon that has brought people from across the country and around the world together, one ride at time.